Mariachi Group Los Changuitos Feos Returns to Sunday Mass at Tucson Church

Los Changuitos Feos Mass BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Associated Press.

On August 18, Tucson’s St. Augustine Cathedral once again heard the sound of trumpets when the mariachi group Los Changuitos Feos returned to liven up the Sunday Mass after more than a year of silence.

As reported by The Associated Press, the colorful and sonorous tradition dates back half a century and fuses Roman Catholicism with Mexican-American pride.

In the Tucson region, particularly, congregations have been the scene of Spanish Catholic syncretism and Mexican identity, where the unique sound of the mariachi liturgy is more than just another version of the choir.

“It evokes a borderlands identity where spirituality and folk music have blended for centuries,” the AP explained.

“Syncretism is the reality of this land, the ‘ambos’ reality,” said the Rev. Alan Valencia, the cathedral’s rector, who grew up attending mariachi Mass in “ambos Nogales,” or “both Nogales,” as locals refer to the two cities of the same name straddling the U.S.-Mexican border about 60 miles to the south.

“And that’s what we see in these mariachi Masses,” he added. “Faith and culture come together and grow.”

Los Changuitos Feos, for their part, have more than 50 years as an organization and are recognized as “Ambassadors of Goodwill,” both in Mexico and in many U.S. cities.

Likewise, Los Changuitos Feos is considered the first youth mariachi group, an idea that occurred to Father Charles Rourke in 1964 and the seed of the entire youth mariachi movement in the country.

Today’s Changuitos play for college scholarship money. More than $480,000 in scholarships have turned former Changuitos into college graduates in law, medicine, science, education, and technology.

On Sept. 18, Los Changuitos Feos will participate in a special mass honoring victims of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 2,500 people in Tucson’s Pima County and silenced mariachi services from the spring of 2020 until they resumed late last month.